Bad news, it's everywhere. Flip open your computer, turn on the TV or pick up a newspaper and it seems you can't escape it. Need proof? Just visit the New York Times' or Washington Post's home page.
Each week seems to bring with it some new, ominous headline that hangs over society like a gray cloud. Politics have certainly been a major driver in that (though our country is not isolated in that situation, as much as it may seem at times), but threats related to natural disasters and crime have added to the seemingly perpetual negativity hanging over us.
This past week, scientists put a timeline on the climate (which could change catastrophically by 2030) as we know it. Just the other day, I was scrolling through Twitter and hit a stretch of stories all tied to various crimes/emergencies — the trial of an individual charged with killing a child, a potential shooting, vehicle crash and more that exceeded my negative news quota for the day.
My coworker stumbled upon a tweet recently that was a spark for this column, wherein someone suggested keeping your name out of the paper in a negative way by not getting arrested. Certainly, in the current climate, that is a good way to guarantee press coverage (though it is not a common practice of The Kansan). But her response cut to the heart of what we, as community journalists, try to do — if you want your name in the paper for something good, let us tell your story.
While I will be the first to admit my love for the songs of the Broadway musical "Hamilton" (and continue to keep my fingers crossed in hopes that I will be able to get tickets when it stops in Kansas City next summer), there is a little bit of a misnomer within one of the numbers.
In "History Has its Eyes on You," General George Washington is advising Hamilton and in the exchange says, "Let me tell you what I wish I'd known when I was young and dreamed of glory. You have no control: who lives, who dies, who tells your story."
Now, I know in this era of cynicism and "#fakenews" where journalists are made out to be the enemy that may seem like the case, but the latter part of that line is untrue.
You have at least some control over who tells your story — especially if you share your story with us. Believe me, I have heard plenty of complaints about the media in general (getting a good earful from a friend of a friend this past weekend). The long and short of it, though, is that as community journalists we want to tell the stories that matter to you — about the people you know.
Starting out in sports journalism, I got the chance to do that through coverage of high school athletics in Jackson County (northeast Kansas). While county seat Holton loves its football — and for good reason — as an unbiased outsider I quickly found that the smaller communities/high schools were ecstatic when I dedicated any coverage to them. I had the chance to tell some really interesting stories, too — from the perseverance of a high school athlete who had part of her ribs removed and still went on to be a state competitor to a former standout who got the chance to play semi-professional basketball in Australia to rehashing the time Satchel Paige came to town and played against a local baseball team.
Here in Newton and Harvey County, there has been no shortage of equally compelling stories of community highlights that accentuate the good things going on in the area. Whether it's award-winning educators, remote-controlled vehicle enthusiasts, helpful paperboys or any of the numerous other local community members I've had the chance to profile, it's always a joy. And I think I speak for my coworkers when I say we want to keep telling those stories and spreading the positivity.
If you have a story with a good deal of historical context, well, you've already piqued Patricia's interest and — while the joke around here is that our editor has worked with and knows everybody — Chad is just as intent on making those stories known.
There are going to be bad days where disaster and crime take up space on our front page; that comes with the territory of being a journalist — and it hits us hard, too. However, there is still plenty of space left for achievements, announcements (birthdays, engagements, anniversaries, etc.) and all manner of your accomplishments that we'd be happy to tell the community about if you give us the chance. If you're wondering where the good news went, too, help us make it more prevalent.
— Kelly Breckunitch is a general assignment/county reporter for The Kansan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.